The LibQUAL+ Survey tool
LibQUAL+ is a rigorously tested web-based survey that libraries use to solicit, track, understand, and act upon users' opinions of service quality. LibQUAL+ is offered to the library community by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL).
The LibQUAL+ survey evolved from a conceptual model based on the SERVQUAL instrument, a popular tool for assessing service quality in the private sector. The Texas A&M University Libraries and other libraries used modified SERVQUAL instruments for several years; those applications revealed the need for a newly adapted tool that would serve the particular requirements of libraries. ARL, representing the largest research libraries in North America, partnered with Texas A&M University Libraries to develop, test, and refine LibQUAL+. This effort was supported in part by a three-year grant from the US Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE).
What LibQUAL+ measures
The LibQUAL+ survey consists of '35 questions and a box'. It measures users' minimum, perceived and desired levels of service quality and identifies the gaps between them. It also incorporates a comments box that is a rich source of qualitative feedback.
The core 22 survey questions address three service quality dimensions:
- Service attitude of staff (eg responsiveness, understanding, courtesy)
- Library as a place (eg environment, quiet study space, group study space)
- Access to information (eg books, journals, electronic resources)
Each question has three parts that ask respondents to indicate on a scale of 1 to 9:
- The number that represents the minimum level of service that they would find acceptable.
- The number that represents the desired level of service that they personally want.
- The number that represents the level of service that they believe the library currently provides.
Thus LibQUAL helps us see where our services are below the minimum acceptable level, where they are better than the minimum, but less than the desired level, and where they match or exceed desired levels of service.
The survey contains additional items that address information literacy outcomes, library use, and general satisfaction.
How long the survey takes
We are using the LibQUAL Lite protocol. This uses item sampling methods to gather data on all LibQUAL+ questions, while only requiring a given individual user to respond to a subset of the questions. This means that the survey takes, on average, less than 10 minutes to complete.
Why we are using LibQUAL+ for our Reader Survey
More than 1,200 libraries have participated in LibQUAL+, with participating institutions in Africa, America, Asia, Australia, Canada and Europe. The growing LibQUAL+ community of participants and its extensive dataset are rich resources for improving library services.
Using the LibQUAL+ survey tool allows us to compare our service quality with other peer institutions, to develop benchmarks, and to see how our performance has changed over time.
The LibQUAL+ approach to confidentiality is guided by the ethical standards of the American Psychological Association and the LibQUAL+ team are committed to the highest ethical behaviour and will take every measure possible to protect the privacy of individual participants.
There is no means of linking your answers to your identity. Although some information is captured from respondents, the respondent's privacy is protected in several ways. First, network addresses are captured. However, this is only very indirect information and it would be difficult to trace back to an individual. Secondly, each response is disaggregated as it reaches the server, and survey results will ultimately be reported back to the participating institutions as aggregate mean score data.
LibQUAL+ is an assessment protocol administered by the Association of Research Libraries, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization as described under United States Internal Revenue Code. Only organizations subject to the jurisdiction of the Federal Trade Commission or US air carriers and ticket agents subject to the jurisdiction of the Department of Transportation may participate in Safe Harbor. As such, LibQUAL+ is ineligible for Safe Harbor certification. However, they take data privacy and security very seriously and have in place practices that comply with Safe Harbor's principles.
An incentive is offered to increase response rates. At the end of the web-based survey respondents may elect to include their email address, which will enter them in a draw for one of ten £50 Amazon or Blackwell’s vouchers. When the survey data is sent to the database, the respondents' answers are separated from their email addresses before they are stored, to ensure confidentiality. Once they are collected, there is no way to link them to an individual's responses, ensuring confidentiality for participants in the prize draw.